In an ideal world, it would be great if all parents could monitor everything their children watch, but realistically speaking it just is not possible. In today’s world movies and television has become a major part of society. In fact, studies show that not only does the media entertain but they also have a profound effect on an individual’s behavior. The statistics of the amount of violence witnessed by a typical child is shocking. According to the American Psychological Association, the average child sees 8,000 murders and 10,000 act of violence on TV before graduating elementary school (Bushman, 537 & 538).
Parents since unable to monitor all of their children’s viewing, are very concerned about the effects of viewing these violent acts. It now becomes not only the parent’s job, but also society’s and the government’s. It is apparent that the only way to reduce the amount of violence seen by the public is to regulate of censor those shows containing violence. Therefore, the censorship of violence on public television should be made mandatory.
As reasonable as it may sound to censor the violence on TV, the television industry strongly disagrees (Zuckerman, 152).
They feel that not only is it unreasonable, but unfair, and a violation of their First Amendment rights (Minow and Lamay, 120).
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In fact, the Supreme Court has held, television receives less First Amendment protection than other media because it “has established a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans” and “is uniquely accessible to children” (Gibeaut, 64).
According to Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News and World Report, “society must tolerate the relatively small number of offensive creations offered by the entertainment industry in order to ensure freedom of speech. After all, that is what
freedom is all about. In fact, there is a price we must pay for our cultural freedom (Zuckerman, 152 & 153).
However, does the price that we must pay have to effect our rights as American citizens? If one could assure that Congress would limit its intrusion into television programming just to the violence advisories (Maines, 162), the so be it. Unfortunately, this assumption cannot be guaranteed. In the March 28, 1994 edition of Liberal Opinion Week, Donald Kaul says that “Belief in the value of free expression is not so much rational as religious, a matter of faith. We First Amendment zealots believe that a free society demands a free market-place of ideas where the good can compete against the bad and the ugly and that, given such a market place, the good will win out.”
When making decisions about what some feel is a moral issue, someone always seems to get the bad end of the deal. According to Kevin W. Saunders of Duke University Press, the media culture apparently is unwilling to accept a sense of responsibility imposed by the public. This is ultimately a result of their feeling stripped of their First Amendment rights: however, current law demands that whatever satisfies the definition of “obscene” is outside the bounds of the First Amendment protection (Russomanno, 161).
Frederick Schauer’s definition of “obscene” is ” that which is repugnant or disgusting to the senses or filthy, foul, repulsive, or loathsome.” In examining violent material, it is obvious that this without a doubt fits the obscene category.
Although Hollywood produces 400 or so films every year that actually convey traditional virtues, such as Forest Gump, Little Women, and The Lion King, they also
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produce equally if not more films portraying prejudice, racism, and other social problems, for example: Natural Born Killers, and Pulp Fiction (Bushman, 537).
The media industry feels that although the American population may be irritated by pop culture, they understand that the principal causes of violence lie elsewhere than the entertainment industry (Zuckerman, 153).
In fact Zuckerman feels that “children are more affected by the general decline of public morality, the lack of religion, the deterioration of public schools, family breakdown and poor parenting. It is obvious that only a select few will be negatively affected by viewing violence on television. The entertainment industry poses the question “why keep everyone else from the innocent entertainment of a few thrills?” After all, why not be honest and show what real life is all about?
Although it may not can be proven that violence on television causes violent behavior in individuals, psychologists who have studied the question of how aggression operates are convinced that everyone learns violent behavior by seeing it enacted (Callahan and Appleyard, 155).
According to Sidney Callahan and Bryan Appleyard, imitation is an indispensable way that an intelligent species like ours learns. We all do it. This is why there are fads that come and go. The main concern that troubles Americans today are the effect that TV violence is having on the children. Dave Grossman argues that “exposing children to media violence is a form of child abuse”. In fact, he compares it to the militaries procedures in basic training (McCain, 38).
Children are very vulnerable and have minds like sponges: they soak up everything they come into contact with. Although exposure to violent television programs day in and day out may not
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affect every child, the chance of just one growing up to enact a violent action observed on television is hardly worth the risk.
Recently President Bill Clinton signed into law the sweeping telecommunications bill passed by Congress, he officially launched the era of the V-chip. The v-chip allows parents to automatically block out programs that have been labeled as high in violence, sex, or other objectionable material. It has been predicted that it will be required equipment in most TV sets within two years. A weighty academic study conducted by four universities and financed by the cable industry concluded that violence is more prevalent and more pernicious than most people imagined. More than 57 % of the 23 channels surveyed were said to contain at least some violence. According to the study, most of it was the kind that can desensitize kids and encourage imitation (Zoglin, 167).
Can this be proven? No. But it can certainly be linked very easily. The decision that is now facing many people is a question of priorities. Does the First Amendment hold true no matter who it endangers, or does the good old American “freedom of speech” right give in a little to preserve the future of this country?